“The trike became a part of me.”
Twenty-eight-year-old Jennie, from Cheltenham, first began cycling on a Tomcat trike at age eleven. She had always been excited by the idea, but due to having cerebral palsy, a typical two-wheel bike wasn’t an option, and even with stabilisers, the experience was unsafe and not fit for purpose. Jennie’s mum sought the advice of Jennie’s physiotherapist, and this was when they discovered Tomcat trikes.
Jennie’s first trike was a smashing success that enabled her to join in with other children in her neighbourhood or play sports like rounders at school. She also took her cycling proficiency test on the trike, receiving a Silver Level certificate. The trike gave her independency and allowed her to socialise with other people her age, feeling included in activities she could do and take pleasure in.
Sadly, as Jennie hit her mid-teens, she outgrew her Tomcat trike, and the bike rides with other kids eventually stopped, meaning her trike was eventually put away into storage. In the same way as so many others, cycling was no longer an accessible option to Jennie, and she moved onto other physical activities, like indoor rock climbing. However, she was still looking for an activity where she could maintain her level of fitness and an activity she could do independently.
The answer to this came in the form of Wheels for All, a national inclusive charity that works to enable anyone with disabilities and differing needs to engage in quality cycling activity. While working at Active Impacts as a Research and Development Officer, Jennie was introduced to MaryClare, project leader at Leonard Cheshire’s local WFA sessions at Blackbridge and the Forest of Dean. Through these sessions, Jennie was able to rediscover cycling in an accessible space and begin to exercise regularly.
With MaryClare’s help, Jennie entered the Superhero Tri even at Downey Lake, on a recumbent (leg) trike that, though not a perfect fit, did job of getting Jennie across the finish line. She described the event as a ‘most joyous occasion!’
Jennie now attends the Sunday cycling sessions with Leonard Cheshire Gloucestershire Wheels for All, and quickly said that she could feel the difference in her muscle tone, strength, stamina, overall fitness and, as a result, her general wellbeing.
“I didn’t do a lot last year due to one reason or another and I physically felt the difference. Going to the gym isn’t really an option for me because I find it boring and actually quite daunting. I decided then that it would be incredible to be able to cycle in my own time, in addition to the WFA sessions. So this got me thinking about purchasing my own trike.”
Jennie is able to ride a recumbent trike and a handcycle, usually cycling up to five miles on each bike at every session for a full-body exercise, and she says her favourite is definitely the handcycle. Now working for Inclusion Gloucestershire as a Project Coordinator, she hopes that she will be able to purchase a suitable bike with advice and support from MaryClare.
Jennie has donated her first Tomcat trike to WFA sessions, for which Tomcat serviced the trike free of charge to ensure that it would still be safe at a whopping seventeen years old!